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Exhibitions and Projects
Exhibition | 1 Dec. 2022 – 9 Apr. 2023

Matej Sternen (1870−1949)

Drawing and Printmaking

Drawing of Matej Sternen

As to his schooling, Matej Sternen falls in between the generation of Slovenian Realists and that of Impressionists. It was through his attitude towards drawing that he maintained his distinction and his identity. Throughout his life he emphasized the importance of drawing in the visual arts, but he did not cultivate it as a discipline on its own. Drawing primarily meant to him a study tool, and later more and more the keeping up of drawing routine which is also necessary in the execution of paintings. He believed that the drawing provided the framework to be filled out by the paint.

A large number of the surviving drawings are collected in sketchbooks. Even if we understand the sketchbooks as a kind of the painter's intimate diaries, we observe that in Sternen's case his wife Roza Klein Sternen also drew in some of his sketchbooks. Because they lived in partnership since they had met at Ažbe in 1902, their interests and study pursuits ran parallel in mutual exchange and shared views.

When after the First World War Sternen began teaching drawing at the School of Architecture and at the Probuda High School of Crafts, and following his illness in 1928, many of the students’ products remained in his studio in the following decade. It is still not possible today to distinguish reliably between his drawings and those of his wife, and one of the important tasks to fulfil remains to separate the products of the school from his own. Only then will it be possible to evaluate Sternen's drawing fairly.

Printmaking of Matej Sternen

Printmaking was an experimental field for Matej Sternen. Prints of the time provided Sternen with a style of drawing that resonates in his earlier drawings. He tried his hand at drypoint, etching and vernis mou, even in colour, and monotype in the twenties. After a trip to Paris, he pursued a more serious study on printmaking techniques. He bought a few manuals, completed his store of tools and dabbled in graphic terminology. After the start of World War I, he collaborated with Saša Šantl and Hinko Smrekar.

Many of his lascivious scenes are copied after Félicien Rops, Max Klinger, artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and after photographs. They do not manifest a serious effort to reach technical perfection. Among the artist's original works, the portrait etching of Primož Trubar has to be pointed out; after the First World War, however, he made some brilliant monotypes, the most elaborate of which are his own images, of much higher quality than the painted self-portraits.

Author of the exhibition
Andrej Smrekar

Authors of the conservation-restoration exhibitions
Gabrijela Kovačič, Celje Regional Museum
Ajda Mladenović, Institute for the Protecton of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Restoration Centre
Mateja Neža Sitar, Institute for the Protecton of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Maribor Regional Office

Project leader
Mateja Breščak

Project participants
Tina Buh, Nataša Ciber, Mateja Krapež, Kristina Preininger, Alenka Simončič

Conservation and preparation of objects
Tina Buh

Exhibition set-up and design
Ranko Novak

Works of art lent by
National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia
National Galery of Slovenia
Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana
Museum and Galleries of the City of Ljubljana
private owners
Government of the Republic of Slovenia

The project was supported by

The National Gallery of Slovenia is part of the Impressionisms Routes, one of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.
1 December 2022 – 9 April 2023
National Gallery of Slovenia

Narodni dom Gallery
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana